Monday, January 12, 2009

Which comes first...The philosophy or the science?

In an essay discussing the limits of science, Yale philosopher George Bealer proposes two guiding principles. The first is the autonomy of philosophy principle which states that “Among the central questions of philosophy that can be answered by one standard theoretical means or another, most can in principle be answered by philosophical investigation and argument without relying substantively on the sciences.”

The second principle concerns the authority of philosophy, “Insofar as science and philosophy purport to answer the same central philosophical questions, in most cases the support that science could in principle provide answers for those answers is not as strong as that which philosophy could in principle provide for its answers. So should there be conflicts, the authority of philosophy in most cases can be greater in principle.” Bealer further notes that these two principles have “constituted the dominant view” throughout our intellectual history until recent infatuation with scientism displaced them.

Many times seemingly scientific disagreements are in reality philosophical ones. This is most often the case when it comes to the interpretation of the available empirical data.

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